A MiG-29K carrier-based multi-role fighter of the Indian Navy has crashed into sea after developing a technical malfunction while returning to base. The jet pilot has been successfully rescued in a swift search and rescue operation. The pilot is safe and is in stable condition. This is the fourth crash of MiG-29Ks since 2019 and the Indian Government is looking to replace these outdated russian made fighter jets
According to the Indian Navy, “A MiG 29K on a routine sortie over the sea off Goa developed a technical malfunction while returning to base and crashed over the sea. The pilot ejected safely and has been recovered in a swift Search and Rescue Operation. A Board of Inquiry (BoI) has been ordered to investigate the cause of the incident. The pilot has recovered and is stable.
The spokesman of the Indian Navy posted on Twitter, “A MiG 29K on a routine sortie over sea off Goa developed a technical malfunction while returning to base. The pilot ejected safely & has been recovered in a swift SAR ops. Pilot reported to be in stable condition. Board of Inquiry ordered to investigate the cause of the incident”.
The Indian Navy has launched a investigation to know the actual reasons of this unfortunate crash.
The Indian Armed Forces are one of the largest operators of the Soviet-era MiG-29 Multi-role Combat Aircrafts. The Indian Air Force operates a total number of 75 MiG-29UPGs and the Indian Navy has 44 units of MiG-29K/KUB aircrafts in its inventory. India ordered these fighters within the framework of two contract signing in 2004 and 2010. The last aircraft was delivered in February 2017.
The MiG-29K jets of the Indian Navy are operated by Indian Naval Air Arm at 300 Indian Naval Air Squadron, INS Hansa, Goa and 303 Indian Naval Air Squadron – INS Hansa, Goa (embarked in INS Vikramaditya).
The Indian Navy is the world’s only operator of the MiG-29K fighter aircraft acquired from Russia along with INS Vikramaditya Aircraft Carrier. The safety record of the MiG-29Ks has not been very good.
On 23 June 2011, a MiG-29KUB crashed during testing in Russia, prior to delivery to India, killing its two pilots.
On 13 November 2016, a MiG-29KUBR crashed in the Mediterranean Sea while returning to the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov from a mission over Syria. The pilot was reportedly rescued.
In November 2019, an Indian Navy MiG-29KUB trainer aircraft crashed after engine failure and both pilots ejected safely.
In February 2020, an Indian Navy MiG-29KUB trainer aircraft crashed and both pilots ejected safely.
On 26 November 2020, an Indian Navy MiG-29KUB trainer aircraft crashed into sea with one pilot dead.
On October 12, 2021 a MiG-29K of the Indian Navy crashed while performing a routine sortie, pilot ejected and are safe.
Operational history of the Mikoyan MiG-29K Fighter with the Indian Navy
In 2004 India ordered 12 MiG-29K single-seat and 4 MiG-29KUB two-seat fighters. The MiG-29K was ordered to provide both airborne fleet air defence and surface attack capabilities to the Indian Navy. Deliveries began in December 2009. Prior to their delivery to India, the MiG-29Ks underwent testing on board Admiral Kuznetsov. In January 2010, India and Russia signed a deal worth US$1.2 billion for the Indian Navy to receive an additional 29 MiG-29Ks. The MiG-29K entered operational service with India in February 2010. Further deliveries of five MiG-29Ks and a flight simulator took place in May 2011. Further deliveries are to continue through 2012. The fighters were based at INS Hansa in Goa on India’s west coast until Admiral Gorshkov joined the navy under the name of INS Vikramaditya in last quarter of 2013. Vikramaditya was expected to carry up to 24 MiG-29K/KUB fighters. The future indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, being built by India, is may also carry these aircrafts.
Further MiG-29K orders by India were frozen after a MiG-29KUB crashed during testing in Russia prior to delivery to India; the Indian Defence Ministry commented that the crash cast a shadow on the credibility of the aircraft. Russia later announced that pilot error had caused the crash, and there was no need to ground the aircraft. In August 2011, MiG’s General Director Sergei Korotkov announced that the final five out of the 16 aircraft contracted in 2004 would be delivered by the end of the year; and that deliveries of a second batch of 29 MiG-29Ks would begin in 2012. In November 2012, the MiG-29K/KUB completed sea trials for the Indian Navy. One problem is that Western and Ukrainian sanctions on Russia have prevented Mikoyan importing components for assembly at the factory, instead they have had to be installed “on the flightline” in India.
In a 2016 report, India’s national auditor CAG criticized the aircraft due to defects in engines, airframes and fly-by-wire systems. The serviceability of MiG-29K was reported ranging from 15.93% to 37.63% and that of MiG-29KUB ranging from 21.30% to 47.14%; with 40 engines (62%) being rejected/withdrawn from service due to design defects. These defects are likely to reduce the service life of the aircraft from the stated 6000 hours.
However, it was reported that recent efforts made by the two countries have improved serviceability to around 70%. In 2017, the Indian government announced the planned replacement of the MiG-29 with 57 new aircraft, with a competition primarily between the French Dassault Rafale and the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
In December 2018 when addressing the press on the eve of Navy Day CNS Admiral Lanba noted regarding the MiG-29K, “there is no issue on supplies of spare parts from Russia at the moment… The MiG-29K fleet has been performing well now.” The Indian Navy plans to deploy the MiG-29K onboard its first domestically built carrier, the INS Vikrant, and will acquire further combat jets with updated capabilities for this purpose. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba announced that issues related to maintenance and availability of spare parts for the MiG-29K fleet, which had previously undermined their readiness, had been resolved.